Thief robs tenant then slugs NYU professor in Flatiron District building

A brazen thief hotwired the elevator to a ritzy Flatiron District building on Thursday, robbed a tenant and then slugged her NYU-professor husband on the way out when the academic recognized the fiend was carrying his wife’s purse, police said.

Helen Neuborne, 78, had just arrived home around 10:20 p.m. when she heard a knock on the door to her W. 17th Street home — which opens directly to the building’s elevator.

She opened it, thinking it was her husband who had been parking their car in the garage below — only to have the culprit grab her by the neck and demand money.

Uncertain how to escape, the creep asked where the exit was and she pointed him to the staircase, where he ran into the professor.

NYU civil liberties professor Burt Neuborne, 79, came face-to-face with the intruder there around 10:30 p.m. — recognizing the purse the thief was clutching as his wife’s, according to police.

The startled crook then punched him and dropped the purse before he took off running, taking some cash and the couple’s credit cards with him.

Burt Neuborne said Sunday that his wife “was icily calm” during the ordeal, “much calmer than I would have been.”

“She dialed down the violence by talking to him,” he said. “He was asking for money so she took him to where her purse was. The police were terrific. They responded quickly and professionally.”

Neuborne said the elevator has “state-of-the-art security” but the thief “tore the electrical panel out of the elevator and touched the wires together. He hot-wired it.”

“It was random that he ended up on our floor. The elevator is in shambles,” the professor added.  “I hope they catch him of course. You can’t break into people’s houses and steal their property.”

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